Is the color yellow anti-Semitic? (Israel says yes)
Is the use of the color yellow a sign of racial and genocidal hatred targeting Jews?
Israel’s foreign ministry is suggesting it is, after a “pro-Israel activist” discovered a sticker in a Dublin supermarket that states “For Justice in Palestine – Boycott Israel.”
The sticker, as can be seen in the photograph published by Israel’s Ynet, was attached to a package of dates that were produced in an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.
Ynet reported that the activist was “shocked” and quoted “sources” in the Israeli foreign ministry stating “it is not by chance that the BDS organization chose to express its protest with a yellow sticker – which is reminiscent of dark days of racism and incitement.”
“BDS” stands for boycott, divestment and sanctions.
The foreign ministry’s statement about the color yellow can only be meant to evoke the yellow stars, often emblazoned with the word “Jude,” that the Nazi regime in Germany notoriously forced Jewish citizens to wear.
But there is absolutely no resemblance between the insignia Nazis forced Jews to wear and the sticker. Except, of course the color yellow.
The stickers were distributed by the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC). A spokesperson for the group explained to me in an email: “We give them away to people, we have no control over how they are used. Some people wear them, some stick them on copy books or laptops or bikes, and some apparently even put them on Israeli products.”
In response to the allegation from the Israeli foreign ministry, IPSC said: “We reject out of hand any accusation of anti-Semitic intent regarding these stickers. The stickers are yellow and red, with black and green writing; yellow and red being internationally recognized colors associated with hazards and danger.”
Well that makes sense. But it got me wondering, what if the Israeli foreign ministry is right? What if the use of the color yellow really does indicate a malevolant intent?
So I decided to look for examples of the color yellow being used by Israelis. Here is what I found.
The color yellow
Israel, like many countries, has a Yellow Pages phone book. Although they call them the “Golden Pages,” the website is brightly emblazoned with yellow everywhere.
Israel even has a chain of gas station convenience stores called “Yellow” with a shopper’s club called “Yellow Club.” Here’s a screenshot from the company’s website showing unrestrained use of the color yellow.
Shoppers at Israel’s “Yellow” chain of convenience stores can get discounts if they join the “Yellow Club.”
But is doesn’t stop there. The logo of the Beitar Jerusalem football club, whose fans are notorious for their racist anti-Arab rampages, is a menorah – a Judaic candlestick – set against a yellow shield.
During matches, the players and supporters form a sea of yellow flags and shirts.
Then there is the Israeli army’s Golani brigade, notorious for its war crimes and human rights abuses against Palestinians. The colors of its official flag and logo? Green and yellow.
The flag of Kach, the violent racist Jewish nationalist movement, is a black Star of David and a fist set against a yellow field.
Finally, the picture below is an artifact that I have in my possession. It is a sign once placed by the “Israel Lands Administration” on a fence closing off a piece of confiscated Palestinian land in eastern occupied Jerusalem. It warns of the danger of entering the land without permission from those who have seized it.
The sign may be traumatizing for Palestinians whose land is routinely stolen and then rendered off limits to them in this criminal manner, but not because of the color scheme.
Presumably the “Israel Lands Administration” chose yellow, black and red for precisely the same reasons as IPSC: these are internationally recognized colors associated with hazards and danger.
“Israel Lands Administration” sign claiming ownership over confiscated Palestinian land.
“Crass and cynical”
By now it should be crystal clear – if it wasn’t already – the sheer stupidity of the Israeli foreign ministry’s reported suggestion that anything racist could be read into the color of the boycott Israel sticker.
IPSC affirms that it is “categorically opposed to all forms of racism including anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and any ideology that seeks the domination by one ethnic/racial group over another. In other words, we are opposed to apartheid.”
Accusations that its choice of color had some ulterior motive are “simply crass and cynical attempts to exploit the memory of Nazi crimes against the Jewish people and which show contempt for those victims,” IPSC said.
“Such attempts also show contempt for the Palestinian victims of Israeli injustices today, for whom the BDS movement is a non-violent method of securing their rights.”
I could not agree more.